The Makers Of Elsword Talk About Localizing Korean Games For America

By Spencer . April 4, 2013 . 1:20pm


We’ve talked a lot about bringing Japanese games to the West on Siliconera. Localizing online enabled Korean games is an entirely different process. Publishers have to decide which events and content should be localized. Sometimes content created specifically for the game’s home country like a Mid-Autumn Festival event wouldn’t translate here.


Elsword is an interesting case because it’s an action RPG with PvP mechanics that happen to be more popular in the West than the game’s home country. The US publisher, Kill3rcombo also managed to created original content specifically for the American release and occasionally content made for the Western release makes its way over to Korea. In this interview, the Elsword team explained the process of bringing a Korean PC game here and maintaining a community in the West.


When localizing a Korean game like Elsword, what are the most important things to get right?


The most important thing is making sure the game is easy to understand and play so that nothing gets in the way of having fun. Kill3rcombo was actually founded by Elsword’s developer, with the goal of providing fun for North American gamers through a high localization standard. Since we are all part of the same company, we have unusually strong support from the developer to make Elsword an enjoyable experience.


Putting our players first and letting them to know we are fine-tuning everything in Elsword just for them is essential for us. We obviously strive to retain the character of the game but we want make sure the dialog and humor is right for our region.


Could you tell us about the localization process? How does the pipeline work when bringing an event over from Korea to the US?


Well, there is definitely a lot of planning involved! Actually there are two kinds of content we bring over. With basic in-game content, like character dialog, we just focus on localizing the text so it’s fun and entertaining.


The other kind of content is event content. Most events in our version of the game are actually created strictly for North American players. In that case we work with the developer to create the event based on various things that are going on, like holidays, school breaks, or even election season. Localization in this case is a little different because many of the terms and concepts were created with North America in mind first.


When it comes to actually choosing the right wording, we do the localization in house so we can make changes quickly and if anything doesn’t sound good to the team, we can change that too.


Elsword has St. Patrick’s Day content in the game. That’s pretty unique since most localized Korean games only have localized content either made for Korea or China. I find with Korean games a lot of other  companies really focus on making content for the Chinese market a priority compared to the US.


That’s true, we released St. Patrick’s Day content for North America. We also made special football costumes for the big game. As we plan in-game events, our focus is on making content for North American players. That means we base events on North American holidays and school themes that only apply to our region. As a result, we often need custom content just for us. We’re able to do this because we have a very unique relationship with the developer of Elsword.


We’re the only case where, as a publisher of Elsword, we are 100% owned by its developer—so really we are the same company. Making a special effort for our players isn’t just about Kill3rCombo, but it also reflects on our parent company, KOG. So together we have a special commitment to making the North American service exceptional.


Does any of made for US content come back to the Korean version?


So far we’ve had some special pets made for North America that were released in other regions and we are in the process of creating special costumes—designed by our players—that will likely also make their way to the rest of the world eventually. Partly, it’s the “two-way street” relationship we have with the developer. We also believe great content should be enjoyed around the world. With the new player designed costumes, the winners were chosen by the players but we made sure the candidates were truly awesome and could be enjoyed by other regions. Personally, I would be proud to have a player in another country wearing my design.




Do you think the Western community reacts to events differently than online gamers in Asia? How do you work with the community here?


When it comes to our events, most are created or at least tailored specifically for North American players. I hope around the world the reaction is somewhat similar if the event is adjusted to suit each region.


Where I think we are different is that we invest much more time in our community than many of our counterparts around the world. We have multiple contests on Facebook every week. We livestream every week, which lets players party up with our GMs or even have their characters compete in beauty contests. We’ve run several online tournaments to showcase our PvP mode. We even had a booth at the last Anime Expo complete with cosplayers as each of the Elsword characters. This way we got to meet our players face to face—which I think is not true of many other publishers.



Can I propose a photo here of the Elsword cosplay team at Anime Expo?



Online games built in the West tend to have developers in house that can react to changes in the game’s economy or make new content. How do you work with the team in Korea to address these issues since there are constant content updates?


We actually have a special team at the developer dedicated to our region. We are all constantly monitoring the game and working together on new content. As for how we work together, I will tell you, we have video conferences constantly so it feels more like we are one team. The only downside we face when working together is that they are many time zones ahead of us so sometimes we have to work at very usual hours. But it’s just part of the job. It’s worth it to us!


I think one edge Korean games like Elsword has is a reservoir of content to release that’s already made for the Korean release. Sometimes content like classes or events gets released out of order. How did you decide which content to bring over at what time?


This constant “backlog” of content has proved to be a real blessing for our team and, honestly, one of the secrets to Elsword’s success in North America. Not only did we have many years of content to bring out here, but the developer has stepped up production in the wake of Elsword’s success, so we can bring content out even faster.


As for how we decide, we target times of the year when our players will have more time to enjoy the new content, meaning summer and winter breaks or even long weekends.


Sometimes we accelerate content based on player demand. For example, we had a special dungeon called “Henir” that was so much in demand we brought it out sooner than was planned in our first schedule. Originally it wasn’t clear how essential “Henir” was, but then players began telling us about a specific gap that it filled for high-level players. Listening to our players is a huge part of how we make our content decisions.

Read more stories about & & on Siliconera.

  • DanijoEX

    Hmm… Interesting. Nobody hardly ever talks about of Korean games being localized alot. Unless I’m wrong…

    • KnifeAndFork

      because they’re usually MMO’s or RTS’s

  • I played Elsword for a while and absolutely loved the PvP to a point. Once I hit that point, being A rank, I realized the glaring flaw in the game and that is that it is very Pay2Win. Iceburner equipment sets are stupidly overpowered when it requires months of hard work to acquire equally good gear legitimately. It got to the point where I couldn’t even land hits on players not because the opponent out-skilled me, but because their evasion stat was so high my “hits” would count as “evades”.

    Other than that, I haven’t had as much fun in PvP as Elsword’s in a long time and the frequent events did keep the game very fresh all the time. If Kill3erCombo could localize future games to not be Pay2Win, I’d be all for more localizations of Korean MMO’s. I’m currently hoping Blade & Soul’s localization turns out well.

    • Luna Kazemaru

      I’m sorry what i been playing since cbt and elsword is far from pay2win. I’ve done fine beating people with iceburners a number of times. It comes down to gear if you don’t have good gear or stacking the right elements ect you will get smashed like every other mmo. If you think thats unfar boy you will not enjoy blade and soul.

      • Bobby Jennings


    • Bobby Jennings

      You dont even need IB sets to win bro. It is far from Pay2Win. IB sets gives little stats, not even enough to be worth getting the IB set itself. The rest is your own fault honestly. Invest in Accuracy before you even play pvp. Everyone should do that. You need no IB set to do that.

  • isotrex

    A lot of MMO games (I play) came from Korean developers. I’m just anticipating on who can really push the next generation of MMO gaming. That’d be radical.

  • KnifeAndFork

    No North Korean games please

  • Just hope they’re better than Nexon or whoever currently owns the US rights to Atlantica Online. “Oriharukon” my ass.

  • Draparde

    I love elsword~, though i’m not a big fan of PVP. so i mostly run dungeons XD. it’s enjoyable to read about the process of localization.

    • Ferrick

      well its great that you’re not a fan of pvp lol, because its now crazy with the release of code electra

      • Vash bane

        raven no longer top dog?

        • Bobby Jennings

          Raven was never top dog. Elsword is

        • Ferrick

          raven is still top dog, the first ranker back before all this job 3 fiasco were ravens, now he’s just second best

      • Draparde

        lol, so i’ve heard XD.

  • Exkaiser

    What’s the translation quality like on Elsword? One thing that always strikes me is that Korean MMOs don’t tend to have natural translations.

    • Draparde

      It’s pretty normal. as far as i remember off the top of my head, there isint tons of badly translated things in NPC chatter and whatnot.
      though sometimes the characters have too much to say after a dungeon and you need to be a speed reader to read it all lol.

  • JustThisOne

    Interesting thing about that backlog thing. I guess, I never really thought about it. It’s usually already a big gap when it comes to new content, but localization time on top of that is enough to kill an MMO…

  • Göran Isacson

    Man, hadn’t even heard about this game until now. I wonder just how many “middle-level” games there are out there that aren’t superobscure indie games or triple A titles that just putter along, earning their keep without ever really making headlines but still eke out a nice little place for themselves.

    Also, is this game a sidescroller, or is it more like an older Double Dragon game in that you go up and down and left and right and so on?

    • Draparde

      Side scroller

  • Rihawf

    I’m sorry to break this for you guys, but that developer is pretty bad,KOG studios. They don’t know how to do balance, loves gacha systems and they abandon other servers.

    • But it’s not the developers that handle servers nor how things work. Publishers choose to use the Gacha systems if they want to.(which are more economy friendly, whether you hate it or not).

      If we take a look at Dungeon Fighter Online, Nexon is shutting that down this June. The moment they got rid of the Gacha system and made everything purely cash shop(meaning prices are much higher), the economy in-game skyrocketed to the point that non-cash players are heavily repelled from even playing the game. The Gacha system promoted more trade, because you spend less, which means you can sell it for less. This by the way, is in no way the developer’s fault. It all depends on the publisher.

      • Rihawf

        This is not what the Brazilian publisher told us. Everything they tell us, is KOG’s decisions. And those decisions are AWFUL. BR Grand Chase was one of their most played servers (it still is) and KOG simply does poor decision after poor decision, and this since 2006 (I started playing on 2007) and now the game is ruined. I know what I’m talking about.

    • Luna Kazemaru

      Yet every other server has just about cought up with the KR server…mhm

    • Canceris

      I kinda agree with this, Grand Chase got to the point of being a total unbalanced mess, and even a lot of updates later i dont see a clear metagame. But hey, at least they are tryng; just not hard enough.

      • komiko12

        The older characters such as Ryan, Ronan and Elesis are totally outclassed by later characters specifically the AP characters.

    • MiniTaurus

      +1 for this on Grand Chase
      *cough* weapon fortification
      but I still love the game nevertheless <3

  • sakusakusakura_nyo

    I like Japanese games a lot but I’m not really interested in playing anything from Korea. I don’t really play western games either, except for Grand Theft Auto.

    • firstarioch

      Then you don’t know games and you are narrow minded . Check War of Genesis series . Art made by hyung Tae kim .magna carta phantom avalanche pc , rhapsody of Zephyr which won best rpg in1999 in asia beating many jap rpgs . There are plenty Korean games I can bring out here including rpgs , and online games which are amazing. Stop being ingnorant .videogame world doesnt start and end I japan in fact japan gaming is dying . Endless love simulations ,pachinko games and japan centric games make it stale ans insignificant now .innovatation seldom comes from land of rising sun . I think in the future china , korea ,Taiwan will be the future of Asian gaming . Its progress .

      • No need to insult.
        Is the War of Genesis series even available in English?

        • firstarioch

          Nowhere in my post I have insulted anyone’s.e . If someone says I don’t like anyrhing other than Japanese is I’m sorry ignorrant and narrow minded .so I said it how it is . And no War of Genesis or any Softmax games are sadly not translated into english however it doesnt matter nor it diminishes the game . There are also Many great Chinese and Tawainese games which never seen a light of day in the West but are superb as well.

      • Japanese gaming does lack a lot for this gen, there are still some good one. But yes it sad that Japan gaming industry has been going downfall making some odd one catered for otaku. Korea is now the center of attention because of K-drama and K-pop, K-pop is the first Asian pop to break the language barrier at a massive rate and there are more K-pop fans then J-pop fans. Japan could’ve done more then just exporting anime/manga and video game to the west. I don’t understand why Japan didn’t make use of the Korean wave to export J-drama and J-pop. I mean a lot of J-pop singers and group could’ve gotten a lot of fanbases outside of Asia like EXILE would’ve gotten a lot of popularity and fanbases outside of Asia on the same level as Super Junior, SHINee, U-KISS, and B2ST (EXILE never performed concert outside of Japan nor Asia) if Japan had uploaded their music video. AKB48 probably would have more fanbases beyond anime fans if their MV were uploaded on Youtube, and probably would’ve been Japan’s “Girls Generation”. I’m not sure about Korean video game, but if Korea somehow end up making video game on par with Japanese video game, then oh boy Korea will become the 2nd “Japan”.

    • Luna Kazemaru

      What does that have to do with anything about this interview.

    • Yeah well here’s the bad news: K-pop and K-drama is sort of helping Korea outbeating Japan. VIdeo game from Korea could and maybe the new but not big thing. I don’t see Japan exporting J-dramas like how Korea is exporting K-drama to western audience (I mean I can find more K-drama on CR and Dramafever and I could find 5 J-dramas) and I could say the same for J-pop. Seriously, I love Japan but they’re failing to export J-pop and Japan could’ve cashed in on the K-pop fad by exporting J-pop but no they missed that opporunity and now Korea is getting more attention for the last few years when it comes to pop culture export. There’s more K-pop fans then J-pop fans. Missed opportunity for EXILE to have gain fanbases and popularity outside of Asia on the same level as Super Junior, SHINee, and B2ST if Japan had uploaded EXILE music video on there. Have you ever thought why we’re in the middle of a Korean Wave?

  • shuyai

    i dont know why but i dont like most Korea manga/art, some part of it irks me. like zenonia/inotia or freezing, it looks kinda stiff and virtually exact same style ever time.

    • firstarioch

      Then check Artist Hyung Tae Kim . Another good one is artist of Lineage series . Check Apple artbooks and poppic artbook . Go . Those are compilation of some of the best Korean artists …you will fall in love like me …lol while you at it check Taiwans famous son Vofan . His art is also sublime .

      • Sergio Briceño

        Agreed. I don’t think sublime is the word I would use though, but excellent and certainly unique. Korean, taiwanese and chinese artists have something to their art (colored, I agree that sometimes their monochrome comics do look a little off) that is fresh and kind of makes me remember the feeling I had when I first was exposed to japanese manga, which is definitely inferior in technique to western comics, but it had something exciting and new compared.

  • Unlimax

    The only Korean games i want to be localized :

    1 : Soul Workers ( Persona + Black Rock Shooter Style )

    2 : Project NT ( Ni No Kuni + Tales series Style )

    3 : Closers Online

    4 : Black Desert

    5 : Club Mstar ( Nurien )

    There’s too many games .. but i pick those quickly :P

    Edit : The names will direct you to the Videos if you click on em’ ~

    • Wow, Project NT looks pretty cool. And I’ve been liking what I saw from Closers, it reminded me of Rusty Hearts, but with Elsword-like fluidity.

    • Draparde

      Closers Online ftw. i really, really want to play that one.

  • Prinny Dood

    Oh please oh please bring it over here ! Oh and does anybody knows what system this is for.

    • Herok♞

      Elsword is a PC game and it is already out you can do a quick google search and start downloading and playing its really fun

      • Prinny Dood

        Good to know thanks

  • T-X

    Like how in Vindictus you can’t jump if your playing the western version…

    • Draparde

      if you mean, like. literally jumping (including jump attacks)…you can :o they added that in awhile back.

      • T-X

        Oh snap really?? I totally dumped that game so long ago for that reason!! You are a prophet to my slowpoke!

  • Bobby Jennings

    This is my game! I play this more than anything else

  • Just did a quick google on Elsword and remembered that this game blocks EU connections.

    I’d like to give it a go even with my 500+ ping latency, but… I’m disappointed I can’t even do that :/

    Well, I have nothing else to say I guess.

    Being British is suffering.

    • Ferrick

      you can use DE’s elsword, but i heard that its in German language

      • It is, yes.
        I’m not sure if that also blocks outside IP addresses though.

        Also, I think I made a mistake. When I said 500+ latency I did not clarify that it’s with games within the UK itself. Trying to play an online game via servers overseas would probably shoot my latency up to 800+… ah how I love British / university internet.

  • yellowmage

    I find it strange that no-one has mentioned MapleStory.

    Also, is it pronounced “Elle’s Word” or “L-Sword”? I’m guessing it’s the latter, but…

    Also-also, no UK version makes me sad.

  • It would be nice to bring some Korean games to the US, we are in a Hallyu/Korean wave, K-pop and K-drama is reaching an all-time high in popularity.

  • ZekeFreek

    Korea has been developing their own style for a while now. We hardly ever noticed because we never hear about it. I think the only Korean made game I’ve played was Aion.

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos