Lost Ark's release in the West has created a home for many gamers. Former players of WoW, New World, and Final Fantasy XIV have been flocking to the new MMORPG — streamers of those games the same. Although former LEC referee turned G2 Esports content creator Yulia “Yuli” Morozova is not one of those former MMO streamers, her enthusiasm for Lost Ark remains sky-high.
A fan of the game since its original release in Korea, Yuli has been streaming Lost Ark incessantly since the western release. As a primarily League of Legends focused streamer, Yuli spoke with Inven Global to discuss her thoughts on the game, its sustainability as a streaming title, and the parallels with League of Legends.
You’ve expressed incredible enthusiasm for Lost Ark. What makes it a special game for you?
I had been playing League for a very long time. But before I got into it, I always loved MMORPGs. And at first glance, Lost Ark is a mash-up of those things — you get the MMO, the cool combat, and the isometric view that I'm used to from League. I remember seeing the trailer long ago and wanting to play it. Initially, I was just a fan of the visuals; I'm a big fan of Korean games in general. This one felt special, just by looking at it.
The game has seen incredible popularity from streamers — though mostly big WoW personalities. You’re one of the only big streamers that are not cut from that cloth. What’s the reception been like? Is it a new crowd, or do you think there’s a lot of interest from your regular audience?
As I mentioned, I got interested in Lost Ark very early on. And ever since then, I was very up to date with everything Lost Ark — I always read fan-made forums, Reddit, and the Lost Ark Discord server. I played it on the Korean and Russian servers, and streamed it because I was so obsessed with it. So while I was a League of Legends streamer and content creator, I still forced Lost Ark onto my viewers [laughs].
So my regular viewers definitely knew. But having mainly a big League audience — I didn't quite feel the enthusiasm that I feel now. Now people are really excited about the game and can play it themselves, rather than just watching something that they might not fully understand. So it has definitely been a different atmosphere.
Lost Ark is currently your main game. Some of the other Lost Ark streamers I’ve talked to aren’t sure how long the game will last for streaming. As someone that’s played the game since the Korean days, do you think this could be a game people can successfully stream for years and years?
Honestly, I do think so — it's very watchable. The isometric view itself makes it easy to watch. As somebody who hasn't played WoW before, I don't understand a WoW raid at all. And I don't really have fun watching it. Lost Ark makes it a little easier. Also, there's an abundance of content inside the game, and there's content for kind of everybody. If you're a PvE player, you have so much to do. If you like collectibles and stuff, you have so much to do, etc.
From a streamer's point-of-view: when I was streaming League, it was just spamming ranked over and over again. There was not too much flexibility that I had when it comes to what I can do inside the game, since I didn't enjoy some of the other modes. But then in Lost Ark, I can do a raid. When I'm sick of raiding, I can start playing PvP. Then I can just take a break and go fish while talking to chat. That's the appeal that I find in the game as a streamer. And then as a viewer, you can go towards what you were looking for. If you like to watch a PvP streamer, there are plenty of those. If you prefer watching raids, there's so much to choose from.
So in that regard, I see potential in the game, for sure. Obviously, there's always this pay-to-win debate and people being a bit sensitive when it comes to that stuff. And at the end of the day, what will decide the game's success is the people that play it, right? They will be the ones deciding the streamers' and content creators' success.
You're not worried at some point that there won't be anything left to do?
The thing is, the game has been out for over three years in Korea. There's a lot of content that is still coming to the Western servers. It's gonna be a while before we run out of that. And then in the meantime, while we're receiving the missing content, there will be new content added.
Also, the fact that the game is designed around playing multiple characters (rather than just one) gives it more longevity. I've been feeling so busy playing this game. I play it all day, every day, and I still don't have enough time to do everything I want to do. And I'm a very hardcore player at the moment — since the game's release, I have about 450 hours. So I think for the regular player — they take it a lot slower. The game will have a very healthy audience, at least.
Currently, we have like 800,000 concurrent players [the interview was conducted mid-March — Ed.], and since release, it hasn't really dropped for an entire month, which is unheard of for MMOs. And naturally, that's gonna dribble down slowly. It's gonna drop down a little bit until a new content patch comes or a new class comes. Games such as Final Fantasy that currently have a much smaller but still healthy player base — they're doing great. Before Lost Ark was released, Final Fantasy XIV was considered to be popping off.
How has the reception been compared to other streaming categories you've done?
The first month of Lost Ark was pretty crazy. But you have to keep in mind that for the release, I was partnered with Amazon. Through that partnership, I got access to the drops, which a lot of people obviously got too. And that really reflected in the viewership and chat interaction. But even since the drops stopped, I do feel like the chat is very active and very engaged. Everybody's very passionate about the game — they want to learn or share something.
Overall, it's been a very nice experience. And I've met a lot of new people. Also, I get a bunch of Korean people in my chat, which is really, really fun. Especially since I have lived in Korea and I speak Korean quite a bit. So it's just really nice for me to see the Koreans come in, and also be so excited for the Western audience to enjoy the game that they love so much.
There was a discussion a while back by xQc that all Lost Ark streamers would lose their viewership once the drops went away. What has it been like since they went away? Did viewer numbers lower?
Oh, they have, for sure. During the drops, I was having some pretty absurd numbers that were quite high. And I think it's logical. A lot of people just want the drops, so they click on the next best stream and leave it on in the background. It's only natural for the numbers to drop down. He was right, to some extent. But the good thing is, though: the drops enabled the streamers that had them. Sadly, not everyone. Some people found new streamers that they enjoy. I know that I got some regular viewers now through that event. I'm really thankful for that.
This game has had a very dedicated player base for years on foreign servers. There were decently-sized Discords before the game was even announced for the West — people were waiting and playing through VPNs. That really shows you that there's a very solid base of people. And that base isn't gonna be so fickle. Sure, there's a lot of release hype with people that are checking it out, but that's what any MMO has. The player base as we're talking right now is 620,000, when the director said he would be happy with 200,000.
What’s one improvement you think the game could have?
I would love to see the missing classes — that's a very common sentiment amongst players. Knowing there's a Reaper, Arcana, Summoner, Destroyer — knowing these classes exist, and maybe even having played them on a foreign server before — people are very impatient to get these classes. And maybe less willing to invest time into classes that they don't really want to main.
A lot of people are concerned that the class releases are gonna be too slow. Because the director was saying something like a new class every two or three months. We still have seven missing classes — that will take quite a long time if they do it this way. I'm curious if it's really gonna take this long, or if they're gonna up the speed. I would personally really like it if they did up the speed, especially because playing alternate characters is very beneficial.
For example, my main character's a Deathblade, but I really want to play an Arcana and a Reaper. Those are two classes I played on foreign servers. I'm really deadset on playing them, and I don't really want to play more of the existing characters, because I am waiting for the Arcana and Reaper — it feels a bit like I'm losing out on progression if I don't just make a random character and start farming with them. And I think your class is also where the game really shines.
But I do understand the business decision to slowly release the classes, because that's what usually brings people back. At the same time, though, there are some reworks coming up in South Korea, where they said that certain classes are getting adjusted. That could also possibly be a reason for the delay at the moment.
The second thing is making upgrade materials tradable to your characters. That's something that really annoyed me when I was upgrading. In honing, you have Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. And as you progress through the tiers, you use different upgrading materials. You have some materials that are tradable, and some that are untradable of the same kind. So you will sometimes get a chest that you can unpack, and then you will have upgrading materials in there. And those are usually bound to your character.
Then if you jump from Tier 2 to Tier 3, and you have a bunch of leftover bound materials, you can't do anything with them. You can't use them on your alternate character, for example. Which would be something that I think would be a huge quality of life improvement. Because right now, I talked to some of my friends that are also playing and streaming the game, and asked them what I'm supposed to do with these items. They are worth a lot, but I can't trade them or give them to another character. And they just straight up told me to sell it to a vendor for silver — like one silver each, or something. [laughs] I refuse to do that. I'm just hoarding the stuff, which I can't use or do anything with, in the hopes that one day there's gonna be some sort of conversion.
The LEC is returning more and more to the studio. Would you ever consider returning to refereeing, or the esports side in any capacity?
I'm doing content with G2 at the moment. And being contracted with G2, I'm still sort of involved with the esports side of things. Because G2 is so focused on esports, and so present in League of Legends, of course. However, while I'm contracted with them, I can't actually work as a referee, because that's a conflict of interest. So it would actually not be possible, even if I wanted to. But I'm actually planning to possibly move to Korea for next year.
What would you say you miss most about it?
I loved working at the studio. One of the main reasons I stopped being a referee and signed with a team is because it switched to online. And it kind of lost the part that I enjoyed the most — interacting with everybody, seeing the audience, and seeing the excitement. And also, watching the games from so close. I could walk between the players, watch over their shoulders, and see how differently every pro player was sitting. It's just really interesting to observe. And all and all, the people were just really sweet to work with.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.