The game space is changing in many ways. Lost Ark has seen mammoth-sized interest. Hearthstone content has slowly been waning. And the streamer industry continues to become more involved and organized by the day. To make sense of these happenings, there’s no one better to talk to than Octavian "Kripparrian" Morosan. The longtime streamer still pulls sizeable audiences for Hearthstone content, and has recently been playing a lot of Lost Ark.
Inven Global sat down with Kripparrian, to discuss his thoughts on Lost Ark, Hearthstone, and the changing streaming landscape.
Lost Ark has seen a pretty explosive release. What have been some of your impressions?
I think the game is quite good. I feel like MMO players are just looking for that new home, and they're hoping to find it in Lost Ark. I don't think [the Founder's Pack] stuff really has too much of an impact if you're just leveling up. And you know, having that level of accessibility is certainly going to push those numbers through the roof if it's already got some behind it.
When we last talked, you mentioned how it’s hard for you to invest in playing an MMO for a long time. But you’ve always consistently played PoE — an ARPG. With Lost Ark being a sort of mixture of the two, could you see yourself playing it longer?
So, I actually thought Lost Ark would be a fair split between an MMO and an ARPG. Because, when you see someone else play, it certainly looks like they're playing a game like Diablo, a game like Path of Exile — even though what they're doing in the game corresponds more to MMO mechanics.
After playing it quite a bit now, I would assess that it is far more an MMO than it is in ARPG. It is just an ARPG in the top-down look of the game. But everything else — all the actual gameplay — is very MMO-driven. You're pushing character development, you're pushing item levels very similar as you would in an MMO. So going in — and I was pretty blind, it's not like I did a crazy amount of research — I thought it would be a fair split, maybe 40% ARPG, 60% MMO. But it's more like 95% MMO, I would say.
So it doesn't really scratch the same itch as a Path of Exile?
The main thing I really like about Path of Exile is the fact that I can craft really unique builds. And the character customization is just unbelievable. So adapting the character customization to a new batch of content and challenges that releases every three months — it's always like a perpetual challenge to take it on. And even still, I have played PoE on and off over the last seven to eight years. The thing with Path of Exile is, I still don't play it like I would play an MMO full time. To play MMO full time, you really do need to be playing most or all of the time you spend gaming, I would say. And with PoE, I typically play a lot when there's a new league and slowly drift off to where I would say about half of each league, I'm not really playing.
Could you see yourself playing Lost Ark for an extended period of time, or because it's primarily an MMO, it's too much of an investment?
It is tough for me to jump on board 100%. I did play through like crazy. I tried to level as fast as I could. Which, okay, it wasn't world-record pace, because the first time I played earlier this week was the first time I played. I didn't play on the Korean or Russian client as some of the other streamers had. And I did kind of tire my arm out because I do have some nerve damage in my arm. And I just decided to take it a bit easy.
I've been consuming a lot of the side-content. I've been checking out a lot of the developer interviews. And it's actually really enlightening. I saw a developer interview with Gold River, who is, I think, the main developer for Lost Ark. And the main thing he suggests about Lost Ark is that players take their time to enjoy the game. And funnily enough, that's kind of how Asmongold approached it. So I don't know. I'm kind of reassessing how I want to play Lost Ark in the future. But my wife is certainly hooked on the game [laughs]. So certainly Lost Ark will be in my life for some time, regardless of my own input.
What do you think of the game’s longevity? We’ve seen a huge amount of initial excitement — obviously, some of it will die down — but with FFXIV dominating the western market, do you think Lost Ark has staying power?
I haven't played Final Fantasy too recently to compare the two. But I do think that Lost Ark's approachability is really, really good at this point in time. I do think the numbers — even if the same number of people, even if all of them continue playing — I think the numbers on Twitch will go down in the coming weeks. Just because right now with launch, they're doing a big push with the event. They're doing a big push with drops and all that. And that always really pushes the viewer numbers.
But I think overall, the general perception of the game is overwhelmingly positive. And combining that with the fact that it's free, it really has that major push that people are just going to try it. Now, the longevity — I believe that the main reason why Amazon tried to put the game out there for the rest of the world (because it was Korean and Russian exclusive more or less I believe, not 100% sure about that) is because the game continued to actually flourish in those regions over time. Which would suggest that the game mechanics are there for players to commit all of their gaming hours to the game. And when you see a big influx in the community — as we're seeing right now — that's a pretty good recipe for a long-standing game.
If you could speak personally with Smilegate on something to improve the game, what’s the biggest need you think?
There are really small things about Lost Ark, but they're mostly just a little bit annoying. I have a leap attack on my Berserker that I'd like to use for mobility, but it seems to get hung up on any form of terrain around me. But it's like really small stuff that's not really worth mentioning. Honestly, I don't have any feedback on major systems that could be improved. I think overall, the systems — because they were released in Russia and Korea — have gone through review and analysis, and they've seen the player feedback. So I think they really have a pretty polished set of mechanics.
You haven’t been deep in an MMO for some time, but I still wanted to ask this since you have so much experience with the genre. With Lost Ark, with New World, and Endwalker — are we in the second golden age of MMOs?
I've only tried MMOs lately on the surface to kind of keep up with the genre and understand where the genre is going and see the kind of features that are being pushed within these games. I haven't deep-dived to the point where I used to play World of Warcraft a decade back. So it's really tough to see. The main thing that I get from it, is that it's come to attention that a lot of players are hungry for that old-school MMO experience.
Why do you think that experience went away, to begin with? Why is it changing now?
I think most MMO players were focusing on World of Warcraft, while World of Warcraft had evolved into something that wasn't quite so appealing to the people that played it. And that's why we saw such a big influx with Classic. But then when Classic started getting a lot of the features, and a lot of the type of development as the modern version of World of Warcraft, players started to back off. It lost its appeal because it turns out that while players are really interested in Classic, it doesn't have that staying power. So you really just see a bit of that spike in interest. People want to latch on to a new MMO.
Let’s talk a bit about Hearthstone. It seems that as far as big Hearthstone streamers have gone, it’s pretty much Battlegrounds or nothing. The last time we talked, you said you found BG more fun. But across the board, all the big streamers in Hearthstone either do Battleground or don’t do Hearthstone at all. Do you see anything changing this, or is it going to stay this way?
It's pretty tough to say how people approach Hearthstone. I think the real question is more how people are approaching card games. I think there is a bit of burnout in the card game genre. Because every time there is a new Hearthstone expansion, I still play the evergreen formats and all that. And it's not that different from how it used to be. Yeah, there are new cards, new decks. You play them out, you kind of check out some cool combos. It is what it is. It is what you expect there to be. It's not like it's worse than before.
But it does seem like other ways to play the game are taking over Hearthstone, and maybe are taking over the card game genre in general. Now, the reason why I'm not sure if it's going to be Battlegrounds or nothing, is because it seems like Blizzard are trying to push new game modes on a fairly regular basis. Recently, we had the release of Mercenaries. I do think that was pretty lackluster overall. But Mercenaries was like Duels, and Duels was like Battlegrounds.
It seems like every period year or two or however long, they're trying to come up with that new way to play Hearthstone. And that new way to play Hearthstone certainly could overtake Battlegrounds the next time, or the time after that. So it's really tough to see how Hearthstone's features are going to pan out. But certainly at this point in time, from a fun perspective and seemingly from a viewership perspective, it's really tough to compete with Battlegrounds.
How optimistic are you about Hearthstone’s future? Obviously, the fact that the game still has a sizeable audience after a decade is pretty impressive — do you see that group staying around for the foreseeable future?
I do think that Hearthstone's core playerbase does have a lot of staying power. Because the game has a pretty nice sense of simplicity where it's always going to be approachable. And I do feel that if there is new content, a lot of the old players will give it a try. And if it is really good new content, I think they might stick around again. And it's pretty clear that the system that they've set up within Hearthstone to release different ways to play the game can adapt very well to the common gaming trends.
I mean, that's certainly what happened with Battlegrounds, if we want to go there. It was a pretty big upward trend of Auto Chess and Auto Battlers. And then they dropped Battlegrounds. And in my opinion, that's the best version of an Auto Battler. So they did very well to play on that. Gaming trends change, but it seems like Blizzard have set up a system within Hearthstone where they can keep people playing "Hearthstone". Let's put it in quotes, I guess [laughs]. But in a way that might pique the interest of more modern game trends.
Your YouTube channel pretty much entirely focuses on Hearthstone content — which I’m sure is probably by design, to have a focused title. Have you considered doing MMO content or anything else gaming-related?
The issue with creating content for YouTube that isn't Hearthstone doesn't really have much to do with what we want to do. It is not exactly a freedom that doesn't come with a cost. We've actually had other content creators point out that they don't understand how our videos are so constantly recommended on everything Hearthstone. How is that happening? The reason is that for a while now, it seems that YouTube has a pretty strong algorithm that rewards consistent content and consistent viewership. So if we upload some content that is not Hearthstone, and it doesn't do very well, it's actually going to punish the future Hearthstone videos for some time. And if we're doing that regularly enough, it really jeopardizes the appeal and searching index — SEO of the channel overall.
So yeah, we sometimes play different games on stream. Sometimes I have new interests from time to time. Yeah, maybe there's a new PoE League and I have a really cool character — which is actually the case right now. But for me to make a video like that, or about something that's not Hearthstone, it just comes with that price that it just doesn't really feel worth it. I do feel that is why on YouTube, you see channels that are either hyper-focused on one genre, or the running theme is that they have a variety sense. Like a new game, or a new game every couple of videos. It really is one or the other. And I think that search algorithm is the reason.
Have you considered joining another organization, or even starting your own? Why have you decided to focus more on the "Kripparrian brand"?
I don't exactly know what the industry behind teams and signing on content creators is like. I think there's a good industry for small content creators, because it really takes on the value of finding sponsorships and deals for them. Because if you're a fairly small streamer — that can be a really difficult thing to invest your time on. And it can be some important income to keep your content going.
For medium to large-sized streamers, I think teams are pretty tricky. Because the teams that work with those streamers are typically heavily hands-on, heavily involved. A lot of original content is coming out of those. And then, I don't know how much we want to really put our time into a venture like that. Maybe we do, maybe one day we will. But for now, being on a team doesn't seem like a major priority. If we got approached by a team to collaborate in a way that has, let's say, a light touch, we would be open to the idea.
Over the past few years, streaming has really become more of a collaborative and organized endeavor. You have things like OfflineTV, OTK, 100 Thieves — everyone’s living in Los Angeles or Dallas — that seems to be where the majority of streamers are headed. Has that ever appealed to you, and if not, why?
I feel like the organizations that you've mentioned generally do collaborative social content, and much less gaming content. The gaming content is kind of a side effect at times. So it's pretty tough to say that I would be interested in that. Because at the end of the day, most of the time when I stream I just want to chill out and play video games. And I haven't quite seen an organization that has that in the front.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.