Monday , November 22 2021

Ina Jang Interview: How Smilegate has made CrossFire the world's best shooter game

Ina Jang is one of the few female CEOs of a large game company. At Smilegate in South Korea, she helped make CrossFire the largest free first-person shooter game in the world.

The title is unknown in the west, where Call of Duty rules. But CrossFire was a dominant game in China and much of Asia, and the game has reached over a billion players on PC and mobile. To date, the game has had sales of $ 10.5 billion and is just one of many titles that Smilegate releases.

Jang joined the company as a developer in 2007, the same year that CrossFire was launched. It made the game more accessible to users of all ages, and focused on making it run on all systems, not just the high-end computers of hardcore gamers. The game was still fast, but it didn't have the lush graphics of Western games. This worked well in China, where there were big differences from high-end machines from rich players and low-end machines from middle-class and poorer players. The company has also worked hard to optimize CrossFire so that it works well in local country networks. It was a formula for growth.

By 2018, the game had 8 million simultaneous players. There are now massive games like League of Legends. I interviewed Yang through a translator for that Gamelab Live virtual event. Jang said the company has more than 500 developers and is now opening a new studio in Barcelona. A beta test of CrossFireX, a new version of the game for Xbox One that Smilegate is working with Remedy Entertainment on, is also starting this week. This version should appear as a free offer this fall.

Jang said that she is still paving the way for the company's future games and is happy to have a firm grip on the company's operations. And she hopes that the gaming industry will see more female CEOs in the future.

Here is an edited transcript of our interview.

Above: Ina Jang is CEO of CrossFire manufacturer Smilegate.

Credit: Smilegate

Execute Smilegate

GamesBeat: Can you tell us more about yourself?

Ina Jang: I am the CEO of Smilegate Entertainment. Smilegate developed a sequel to CrossFire and many other games on online and mobile platforms. CrossFire is our main theme. Smilegate is also responsible for game publishing and game services for titles like Epic Seven at home and abroad.

GamesBeat: How did you get into Smilegate?

Ak: I was a game developer myself before I came to the company. I had heard that Smilegate was looking for game developers, so I interviewed for a position in development. At first I only entered the company as an employee and planned games like CrossFire and many others. I built my career here at the company to become CEO.

GamesBeat: How did you learn to be a good CEO? What helped you to become a good CEO for Smilegate?

Ak: Of course, the CEO of a company has a lot of tasks to do, but because of my background, when I started as a game developer myself, I think that a great CEO should be a person who has a lot of ability to develop a game is fun. Other types of attributes are required by a CEO, but one that I think is important, based on my market knowledge, is to pave the way for the future development of our games. I have to be capable and confident enough to manage my developer organization here in the company.

Growing CrossFire

GamesBeat: CrossFire is a huge game. Can you tell us the number of players, the number of dollars generated and the number of employees you are allowed to employ? How big did it get

Ak: CrossFire is number 1 in terms of global FPS games. It is definitely a huge game. The company is present in 80 countries around the world, with 670 million users and period revenue of $ 10.5 billion. It is very big around the world. In terms of monthly concurrent users, we had 8 million people as of 2018. To get a better idea, Hong Kong has 7.5 million inhabitants. So imagine that each of them is present at the same time. The mobile version of CrossFire started at the end of 2015 and until 2016. At times, the number of users for CrossFire was actually 1 billion, meaning that one in seven people around the world played it at least once.

GamesBeat: In the US and the West, we're pretty familiar with FPS games like Call of Duty and Battlefield. How would you compare CrossFire to these games? Battlefield and Call of Duty are very difficult games, very large games with high-end graphics. Why do you think CrossFire was just as successful or even more successful?

Ak: CrossFire is a little different from the other games you mentioned. It is a very fast game where the mobility is much higher compared to other games. The feeling of being hit and being hit is very different. It could be defined as an occasional FPS, something other than popular western games. As you said, these other games have very high quality graphics that focus heavily on the graphics, but CrossFire is a little different. However, we are planning CrossfireX in collaboration with Microsoft, a console game. We can't say exactly when it will be released, but the focus will be on high-end visuals combined with CrossFire's inherent strengths.

If I could share some of the secrets behind CrossFire's success, we have been very focused on our localization strategy for the title to focus on very specific details of the needs of the players. At the time of our global launch, many countries around the world still had very poor quality network infrastructure. We have worked to optimize our technology to better synchronize it with different networks. It wasn't that easy, but we overcame the technical hurdles to make sure the game was synced with the network available in each country.

Many game development companies lose the essence of their games when they reach other countries. You are not performing the correct localization. We try to stick to the core functions of our game, like the feeling of scoring a goal and the speed that are the strengths of CrossFire. Even if we had to change our user interface a bit to better localize the game, we're still trying to keep the game's core resources as much as possible. Before we start the game, we do thorough market research and research to achieve successful localization.

Above: CrossFire has more than a billion registered users.

Credit: Smilegate

GamesBeat: Can you tell me more about some of CrossFire's best development decisions? If big mistakes were made, how did you correct them?

Ak: We made a lot of development decisions, so I can't choose a single one. However, many of these decisions were requests from different publishers in different countries. They would make very detailed requests to insert different characters and different media for their territory. Many of these decisions were positive, so I can't really choose one.

But one of the mistakes we made on our trip – since this is an FPS game, we thought that the fast pace of the game was our most important asset and value that we should stick to. However, many complaints came from players about how they could be quickly killed by other, faster players. They didn't want that. We added HP, a kind of liquid energy, so that they can increase their energy level. But that triggered a lot of resistance from users anyway. We had to roll back and the server went down for days, which was a big loss for us. It was an important lesson for us that we shouldn't just ruthlessly update various articles without doing thorough research and testing consumer needs.

GamesBeat: How big was the team that created the original game, and how big is the team that manages CrossFire and the sequel today?

Ak: No matter what game we are talking about, we start very small with a small team. We now have around 500 developers, including people who are involved with CrossFire as well as the sequel, mobile game, and live operations.

About Nancie Clifford

Nancie Clifford is a housewife and loves technology. He writes on various websites.

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