Albion Online developer bullish on APAC growth

Sandbox Interactive has launched a dedicated Albion East server for the region.

Albion Online developer bullish on APAC growth
Image credit: Sandbox Interactive

To better address the needs of its growing number of players in the Asia Pacific, Albion Online developer Sandbox Interactive has launched a dedicated Albion East server for the region.

"The new Albion East server offers players in Asia and Oceania a much faster connection and optimized timers, as well as a completely fresh game world to play in. This, combined with dedicated native-speaker agents in the time zones of most players, will offer a more immediate connection for a community that until now may have felt somewhat on the outside of the main Albion player base," Sandbox Interactive CEO and Game Director Robin Henkys told Digital Life Asia.

Coming to Asia

Berlin-based Sandbox Interactive launched the MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) Albion Online in 2017 and made it free to play in 2019. In 2021, the game officially launched on mobile.

"Ever since the original game launch in 2017 but especially in the past few years, we've seen tremendous growth in our player numbers across Asia. Along with the overall growth of the player base worldwide, two factors that have particularly influenced this growth in Asia are the official mobile launch in 2021, and the addition of five Asian languages since 2020. The combination of a full-fledged MMORPG experience available on mobile and an increasing number of language offerings puts us in a very strong position in the region, with one of the only blockers being connection speeds to the single game server in the eastern US, as well as non-optimal timers for maintenance and game events," Henkys said.

The launch of the dedicated Albion East server now addresses those blockers. Henkys added that they might also introduce features and events specific to the region.

"In general, the two servers will offer the same Albion Online experience. It's important to us that no major game content is excluded from either server, though it's possible we may eventually offer slightly different temporary events or smaller details in the future. One thing that will necessarily differ is the Guild Seasons, which are server-specific by nature. As Albion has a persistent world and winners are commemorated in statues in each city, these will start completely fresh on Albion East with the Beta Season winner.

"As far as community features, we will also as mentioned above have dedicated support agents and mods for Albion East, many of whom will be located in similar time zones to most of the player base and better able to respond in a timely way to questions and issues. We may also have online community events for our communities in Asia, though we'll have to see how things take shape there. Overall we're really looking forward to seeing how this new version of Albion progresses, and we'll be monitoring the launch carefully to see what's needed by the community," he said.

'You are what you wear'

Image credit: Sandbox Interactive

One of the most interesting things about Albion Online is that instead of rigid character classes, it adopted a "you are what you wear" system from the start.

"The 'you are what you wear' system was a central pillar of Albion's concept from the very beginning. We didn't like that players had to give up their character to try a different play style and we didn't want to fall into the same pattern of having fixed classes which ends up similar in most games," Henkys said.

How does Sandbox Interactive maintain game balance, however, and ensure that no character will become too powerful?

"Of course balancing such a system is a huge challenge. The amount of possible gear combinations is in the tens or even hundred of millions, so it is impossible for our team to pre-test and consider every single combination. Instead, we follow a set of design guidelines which ensure a basic balance is provided between items. We also constantly monitor gear choices players make and adjust balance as needed.

"Despite this, some items will always be stronger in a certain context than others, but that is the great thing about Albion's open system: if your gear combination isn't working for a particular context, you're free to switch to a different set of gear at any time, and unlocking gear is generally very fast compared to other MMOs (massively multiplayer online games). By constantly adding to the pool of items available in the 'you are what you wear' system, we keep the game fresh and exciting at all times," he said.

Defined by players

At the end of the day, it's the players that give Albion Online a competitive advantage over similar games, according to Henkys. He cited three main factors behind the game's success.

"First and foremost — the players define the world. Albion has an entirely player-driven economy in which savvy players can not only play the markets, but even in some cases drive prices up or down, or even take on larger meta-economic roles such as banks, retail suppliers, or transport guards. For those who prefer to mix high-level combat with politics and strategy, the Outlands provide fertile ground for conquest and glory.

"Second, as mentioned above, the freedom it offers players, which is always tempered by risk. Albion's risk-reward balance is such that there's always an underlying incentive for players to push themselves a bit beyond their comfort zone, which can sometimes lead to defeat and frustration, but is completely exhilarating when successful.

"Finally, Albion offers a deep and varied guild warfare system, where every guild can carve out its place in the world. This ranges from massive guilds with hundreds of members who control large parts of the Outlands, down to small PvP (player vs player)  and PvE (player vs environment) guilds and even single players who can still reach Guild Season milestones and unlock huge rewards." he said.

Players interested in gaining full access to the closed beta and early access to the Albion East server may purchase Founder Packs.

Albion Online has arrived in Asia. Are you ready to play?