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Have you ever felt sad about the discontinuation of an online game, or worried that the account you put a lot of effort into will disappear completely one day in the future?

Online games are great, but the feeling of emptiness that comes over us from time to time is really powerless: we all know that virtual worlds are hard to last forever, and when product operations hit a bottleneck, the server may be shut down. Therefore, we often see players calling on the official to launch a stand-alone version for old online games so that players can own this product forever.

As a well-known manufacturer with both stand-alone and online game product lines, SE seems to have noticed this demand.

In 2022, Dragon Quest 10: The Five Awakened Offline Edition (hereinafter referred to as the offline edition), developed based on the online game Dragon Quest 10, was officially released, starting an attempt to turn a popular online game into a stand-alone new game. Unfortunately, due to the huge amount of text, the game was not released in Chinese in the first place, causing Chinese DQ fans to wait.

Fortunately, at the end of May this year, the Chinese version of this game was finally released on PS4/5 and Steam. I believe that for Chinese players who have played the online version, this game is even more special. After all, after the Chinese version of “Dragon Quest 10” was shut down in 2019, many players have bid farewell to the continent of Yastorukia.

So, do players really need to switch from online games to stand-alone games? How can a long-term MMO be reasonably transformed into a stand-alone product that emphasizes experience integrity? After actually experiencing this game on PS5, I believe I can sort out some clues from “Dragon Quest 10 Offline”.

Old school but advanced enough process

First of all, it should be pointed out that as a series of the original, the gameplay framework of “Dragon Quest 10 Offline” belongs to a very orthodox JRPG. It deeply demonstrates the biggest feature of the series – no fancy gimmicks, only a self-consistent system accumulated over more than 30 years.

I personally can accept it, but there is definitely some acceptance threshold for some players.

For example, the introduction of the prologue is obviously a bit slow, and players need to endure the traditional turn-based combat and maze-walking for a period of time before the system is fully developed. If you are a player who has never played an old-fashioned JRPG, you may be drowsy about it. Encountering enemies in the open, saving in the church, Q-version characters with three heads and a body… For today’s players, these settings are very attractive elements.

But as long as the game enters the positive cycle of the main line, I think you can begin to feel the solid process-driven design of this game.

The game revolves around traveling around the world, making friends, and collecting various key badges. The overall gameplay is to travel to various continents, help various races solve problems to win recognition, and gradually uncover the conspiracy of the big devil in the process of becoming stronger. This standard DQ development cannot be said to be very innovative, but it is enough to make people addicted.

The world is big

In terms of exploration, the offline version has a vast area that is far beyond my expectations, and each town, maze, and wilderness are designed with different local customs to highlight the world view. Although it is not a seamless large map, the PS5’s fast loading blessing has a considerable number of regional maps, which organically integrate the town maze together in layers, and with the monsters and treasure chests scattered among them, it still creates a good sense of adventure.

In addition, the game also has some linear meaning in its process arrangement.

After the theme is introduced at the beginning, players can choose their own destination and the order of collecting key emblems. The choice of race will also make a lot of differences in the story. In addition, there are a variety of side quests, collecting elements, and alchemy, blacksmithing and other mini-games, which strengthen the player’s control and participation in the adventure, rather than being completely rushed by the main storyline.

Not a lot of playable content

As for core gameplay such as development and combat, although a lot of simplification and reconstruction have been done compared to the online version, it is still very addictive – it is hard to imagine that I will still be addicted to this traditional turn-based gameplay in 2024.

This game is still very toxic (Source: Station B)

To be fair, the online version actually has a lot of ideas in terms of system. The multi-player cooperation under the special settings such as free movement and pushing once made “Dragon Quest 10” stand out from other MMOs. Now the direct change to a turn-based system is somewhat regrettable. However, the system of this game is really “simple but not simple”, and the combination of team members under the diversified development has largely guaranteed the fun of the battle.

For example, no matter the protagonist or teammates, there are skill trees involving various weapons for players to freely add points and combinations. When the cultivation and collection are advanced to a certain extent, you can truly feel the pure pleasure of beating the enemy with different styles. Although the difficulty and challenge are average, the RPG-specific feedback of becoming stronger still creates a sufficient sense of accomplishment.

The protagonist’s job transfer system is a brilliant touch for players like me who like to grind.

Players can freely switch between 6 professions, including warrior, monk, and martial artist, at the beginning. Some passive effects and skills can be inherited across professions, which has created a good depth of development. When players have trained these basic professions to a certain level, they can continue to switch to 8 high-level professions. For example, when a warrior or martial artist reaches level 30, they can complete the task to unlock the battle master, which further enriches the tactical options. Maxing out all these professions is the most attractive point of this game.

In general, the gameplay of “Dragon Quest 10 Offline” may not be so novel, but the mature and rich structure is still enough to make players who like this type of RPG obsessed with it.

And I personally feel that new friends who got into the game from Dragon Quest 11 might be more suitable for this offline version. Because this original game, which was born out of the online version, is the newest game that can best showcase the characteristics of the series while taking into account the habits of modern users. And the game obviously borrows a lot of systems from the 11th generation, which is also easy for new players to get started. As for the diehard fans of the original 10th generation, will they be satisfied with this more refined stand-alone version? I think I have to find some friends to verify it.

What’s the point of changing online games into stand-alone games?

In addition to the gameplay, I think the concept of “online game to stand-alone game” in “Dragon Quest 10 Offline” is also worth discussing.

In fact, the offline version also has some online elements, but it is a bit troublesome

So what is the significance of a stand-alone version like the “Offline Edition”?

First of all, its greatest value lies in making up for the missing piece of this game for those fans of the series who “will never” play online games.

As an RPG series that started as a stand-alone game, adding an MMO to the main series is actually quite risky. This game finally brings the 10th generation back to everyone in the form that series players are most familiar with. From this perspective, “Offline Edition” is indeed not a milk powder game that is sold again, but an online game that has been operating since 2012 to meet the needs of IP fans with a certain specification, which can be regarded as a plan to stabilize the core user group.

In addition, for friends who focus on the plot experience, the “Offline Version” may also be a more suitable mode.

Players who have played MMOs should know that the overall MMO model does have some flaws in terms of narrative immersion. Even if it has good plot content, the gameplay structure that tends to focus on tasks, dungeons, and socializing is bound to make the narrative experience easily feel fragmented, and it is also limited in terms of expressiveness.

The Offline Edition can fully devote itself to the story presentation and character creation, allowing players to immerse themselves in a world with a huge setting in a more fluent form, and feel the series’ somewhat simple but sincere and humorous stories. In terms of expressiveness, the full voice-over added to the Offline Edition is the biggest highlight, and it is also a major motivation for old players to play this game. However, the usual Q-version characters will return to a proportional design when the cutscenes begin, which may be a matter of opinion.

The humorous and cute plot is very pleasing

In addition, the long-term operation plan of “Dragon Quest 10 Offline” is also worth watching.

Online games can have no ending and continue to have major versions, but standalone games cannot do that. Due to the limited amount of content, the offline version cannot bring out all the content of 7.0 in the original online game at once.

Therefore, the choice of the offline version is to refer to the expansion pack of the online version to add content to improve this product in the long term after the main body gives a phased ending, making it a stand-alone game that can be “chased”. For example, the PS5 version I am currently playing, in addition to the main body content, you can also experience the 2.0 version “The Sleeping Hero and the Guiding Ally” by purchasing DLC, and continue to participate in the subsequent story.

“It’s as big as a game’s DLC”

If the offline version can continue the plot line steadily, it may become a long-term stand-alone RPG game that is not common in the market. But if it stops at a certain version midway, it will be very embarrassing – this is also the most concerned and speculated part of this game by players.

It is not difficult to see that an old online game that has been in operation for more than ten years has reproduced the essence of the series in the form of this new stand-alone game, which to a large extent provides an opportunity for players who missed the game that year and new fans of the IP to get into the game, without burying the accumulation of “Dragon Quest 10” over the years.

However, it must be said that in what form should an MMO be collected by players forever, and what retentions and breakthroughs should be made in the gameplay. “Dragon Quest 10 Offline” has only implemented some possibilities, and its performance does not fully meet the expectations of players.

I don’t know when 3.0 will be released.

For example, some players feel that the game has not been able to creatively reconstruct the features of the online version, and that it is somewhat lazy to completely apply the classic mode. At the same time, if you examine this game with pure stand-alone standards, you will also find that there are some regrets in the game’s details and interactions. For example, teammates who should have been written about in detail have basically become combat accessories after the relevant plot. The occasional sense of patchwork and trickery may make some old players feel uncomfortable.

All we can say is that the framework of turning online games into stand-alone games with long-term updates is worth observing and learning from, but the specific implementation and design direction is still a topic to be explored.

Is a similar model worth replicating?

At present, it seems that “Dragon Quest 10 Offline” has won the recognition of many players. When the game was released in 2022, it also achieved certain results in the Japanese market. Many players are looking forward to the subsequent 3.0 version update.

So, can other MMO products on the market continue their IP by following this model?

There may be an issue of input-output ratio here.

The emergence of “Offline Edition” has many inherent advantages. Its developer SE is a well-known stand-alone manufacturer with a lot of R&D experience and mature templates that can be applied. In addition, the series resources can also support the long-term production of “Offline Edition”. Coupled with the appeal of IP among the stand-alone user group, this game can try to sell DLC to gain the possibility of long-term sales.

However, for those manufacturers who do not have much experience in single-player development, or have not figured out how to convert online games to single-player, this attempt may be a bit risky. If you do not have the considerable material resources and R&D accumulation of “Dragon Quest 10”, and want to invest a lot of money to completely build a new product, you have to weigh the needs and value of the audience and the IP itself.

After all, we can see that “online games to stand-alone games” is not a simple save as, but requires finding a suitable framework to reproduce the online version of the content. There must be breakthroughs and improvements in the gameplay, and the commercialization level also needs to use DLC and other models to seek new ways out. If it is just a “milk powder” with insufficient sincerity, it will be difficult to bring out the corresponding value, and it will consume the enthusiasm of users.

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