[Exclusive] Solo Leveling: Arise Dev Interview – “A Guild System Is Coming”

Following the successful debut of the Solo Leveling anime (review), Sung Jinwoo is making a return to our screens in the much-awaited game, Solo Leveling: Arise. After a long wait, the game was finally released worldwide. Fortunately, I got early access to the game (review in progress) and even got the golden opportunity to interview two members of the Solo Leveling: Arise dev team, Inho Kim (Art Team Lead) and Seong-Keon Jin (Netmarble Neo Producer), on how they approached the popular Solo Leveling IP.

We discussed a wide variety of topics, and the developers gave me insight into Solo Leveling: Arise’s mechanics, the future, and much more. Here’s what went down:

Q. My initial impression after playing the preview is how well-designed the character designs and artwork are. What was the team’s approach to character design while staying true to the visual style of the manhwa?

Inho Kim: “When bringing the Webtoon characters to the game, we reinterpreted the designs of the characters from the original series. The artist who was responsible for the artwork of the original series and his assistants gave us feedback and comments on the new design. Additionally, Solo Leveling: Arise showcases stories from the perspective of Sung Jinwoo and those of other Hunters that have never been told in the original series.”

“The author of the original series also helped us create these stories.”

This statement makes it clear that an adaptation of any kind shines the brightest when the series’ creator collaborates with it to create new originals based on the same IP. Netflix’s One Piece Live Action series (review) was also able to achieve success for the very same reason. One Piece author Eiichiro Oda helped the Netflix team every step of the way to bring the live-action series to life.

Q. The story of Solo Leveling is set in an MMORPG-style realm that was, well, tailor-made for a video game adaptation. So, how did the development team incorporate components of the original story as game mechanics to make it not OP and a more captivating gaming experience?

Seong-Keon Jin: “We’ve been working to expand the universe of Solo Leveling to a level that does not harm the original IP and stays faithful to the original story at the same time. Additionally, we have categorized the content into two parts in order to offer a fun gameplay experience: the part that needs to be presented with a strong impression and the part that needs to be controlled.”

I believe this attempt was quite successful. “The original author praised the expanded stories when he played Solo Leveling: Arise,” the fans also gave positive feedback, highlighting how the game successfully brought the original work to life.

Sung Jinwoo along with his shadows in Solo Leveling: Arise
Image Courtesy: Solo Leveling: Arise by Netmarble (X/@Sololv_ARISE_GL)

Furthermore, what’s more interesting is that Netmarble is working with Chu-gong, the author of the original series, to get his thoughts and input on the game’s original stories and elements. The game’s devs have received positive feedback on the proposed content coming to the game in the future.

“We are working together with Chu-gong, the author of the original series, to get his thoughts and input on the game’s original stories and elements.” – Seong-Keon Jin

“The core of an action game lies in whether users can truly enjoy the combat, and I personally believe that it serves as the first impression of a game and is the factor that can attract the most players. In my opinion, having fun combat content is enough for a game to provide an enjoyable gameplay experience to users, and that’s the point at which the players of Solo Leveling: Arise praise it.”

The key direction for Arise’s development is to develop a game that can maximize the charm of the Solo Leveling IP. Let’s discuss it from two different points: 1) the faithful reproduction of the original IP; and 2) maximizing the fun of combat.

This is reaffirmed in my playthrough of the game. The developers nailed the adaptation aspect by remaining faithful to the source material while amplifying the combat to deliver a fun but grindy experience to the player.

Q. Following my first playthrough, I felt that the game—particularly some of the boss battles—was incredibly challenging, level-gated, and required grinding akin to that of a Soulsborne game. Was the goal here to evoke Sung Jin-Woo’s leveling-up grind for the players? If so, how would the team characterize the decisions to make these fights seem authentic in the game?

Seong-Keon Jin: “As Sung Jinwoo, users will enjoy having battles and clearing dungeons. Players will find the experience very enjoyable, as they can witness their own growth. To provide such an experience, we have placed the Boss Dungeons that would provide tense moments in the game.

Solo Leveling: Arise offers plenty of content that will make users feel as if they’re on the journey of Sung Jinwoo themselves.

Q. A significant portion of Solo Leveling’s enormous community consists of gamers. Thus, during the game design process, how did the team consider striking a balance between fan expectations and creative freedom?

Inho Kim: “When we’re working on an IP that has an existing original work, we often face criticisms from various directions. Reproducing the original work, fans may say, “Why even bother producing a game if it’s just a reflection?” and if we stray far from the original work, we will be criticized for undermining it. We understand why fans who love the original series would feel this way. As Solo Leveling already has its conclusion, there must be some parts of the game where the story diverges from the original series and brings a unique narrative of its own.”

hunters in Solo Leveling arise
Image Courtesy: Solo Leveling: Arise by Netmarble (X/@Sololv_ARISE_GL)

While Solo Leveling: ARISE aims to expand the universe of the original series, we don’t intend to deviate from the original IP.

“While Solo Leveling: ARISE aims to expand the universe of the original series, we don’t intend to deviate from the original IP. We try to reflect the original story in the game and utilize scenes from the webtoon at the same time. Furthermore, we have also implemented various narratives that capture the unique mood of the game, and we believe that the game can provide a refreshing experience to users who are already familiar with the original work.”

Q. Based on my playthrough so far, I found Solo Leveling: Arise to be a true retelling of its source material. But have any noteworthy creative alterations been made to the narrative that will have a big impact on the gameplay? Similarly, how did the dev team approach giving minor characters like Juhi or original characters like Emma Laurent their abilities kit?

Seong-Keon Jin: “The main storyline of Solo Leveling: ARISE faithfully follows the original series. Users may have enjoyed reading the original webtoon or web novel of Solo Leveling. It will be interesting to see how the original story is brought to life through the game’s narratives and graphics. Besides the story of the original series, Solo Leveling: ARISE is filled with “stories of the Hunters that were never told,” and it would be a fun experience for users to enjoy such stories.”

For example – players would learn about Cha Hae-In’s story when she was just awakened as an S-Rank Hunter or about Yoo Jinho forming a strike squad when Jinwoo was in a dungeon. Such original stories as Solo Leveling: Arise are created and developed under the supervision of the original author.

Q. The transformation of Jin-Woo from the weakest hunter to the strongest hunter ever is the essence of Solo Leveling. Could you provide more details on the decisions made for the game’s character progression system and how it enables the players to simulate that same feeling of evolving as a hunter?

Seong-Keon Jin: “In my opinion, one of the points that fans liked the most in the original web novel and webtoon is how the main character, Sung Jinwoo, levels up like a game character, becomes stronger, and defeats challenging enemies.”

“We applied this element of leveling up of the original series to Solo Leveling: ARISE so that users can play the character, level up, and get the feel of the original series’ narrative as they play the game. Just as he does in the original series, Sung Jinwoo in Solo Leveling: ARISE ‘levels up’ and grows as the story proceeds.”

“When Sung Jinwoo levels up, he gets ability points. Players can allocate the ability points to various abilities such as strength, vitality, agility, intelligence, and perception. It is up to the users to allocate the given ability points; in other words, users may choose to have Sung Jinwoo, who is just like the one in the original series, or make him different.”

Sung Jin-woo's ability section in Solo Leveling Arise
Captured In-game on PC

“Players can experience diverse action styles with various weapons for Sung Jinwoo and Hunters. Also, the Skill Rune System allows users to experience multiple effects on Skills they have. Users can create their own action patterns by combining skills and weapons, which would be quite enjoyable.”

Q. Has Netmarble considered making a VR title based on Solo Leveling? I’m sure that experiencing the leveling-up journey of Jin-Woo would undoubtedly be a stimulating experience in VR.

Seong-Keon Jin: “It would be very interesting to experience Sung Jinwoo’s story from a first-person view on VR. However, we are focusing on providing the best gameplay experience with Solo Leveling: ARISE at the moment. We look forward to the day when Solo Leveling: ARISE could be supported on VR devices as well.”

Q. With the success of Solo Leveling, does the team wish to adapt any other manhwa or manga series as games?

Seong-Keon Jin: “We are taking several charming manhwa/manga-based IPs into consideration, but for now, we will focus on Solo Leveling: Arise.”

Q. Finally, what does the future of Solo Leveling: ARISE look like? What are some plans to ensure that players keep returning to the world of Solo Leveling: Arise?

Seong-Keon Jin: “We plan to keep updating the story of the original series in the game on a regular basis. We will update the game with various dungeons and raid content suitable for an action game, focusing on Sung Jinwoo’s journey to become a stronger hunter while providing immersive cinematic cutscenes and narratives.”

“Moreover, there will be more Hunters, Shadows, and strategic skills original to Solo Leveling: ARISE. We are also considering the introduction of the guild system,” which served as an important community element in the original series.

We will allow users to create their own guilds and form communities within Solo Leveling: Arise. We will allow [Solo Leveling: Arise] users to create their own guilds and form communities within the game. We will continue to communicate these updates with players.”

And that’s a wrap for our interview with the devs behind Solo Leveling: Arise. Once again, a huge thanks to Inho Kim and Seong-Keon Jin for their time and the Netmarble team for giving us this opportunity. I hope this interview provided you with a behind-the-scenes look at the development phase and the future prospects of this game. That said, share your thoughts about this game in the comments below!

comment Comments 1
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