Keeping our recent spree of monthly interviews rolling, Jason Park (Korean Name 박성준 Park Seongjun), who a long time ago worked at HiCom and eSofNet on the Corum series and is now head of the R&D division at Eyasoft, answered a few questions for us. It's shorter than usual, but we're still told some interesting stories.
In other news, as a new research opportunity has opened up since the article was first written (namely the full-text-search supported online availability of three daily newspapers up until 1999), the first small chapter in part 1, "Zero Hour", has been significantly improved and almost doubled in length. The history now also has a definitive starting date, which is the year 1976. For anyone interested in really old stuff (like Pong consoles and such) that portion will be well worth a re-read. There's also a new appendix listing most Korean gaming magazines that were published throughout the years, and of course also the usual small corrections & additions throughout, notably many new old photos in the main text body.
Now check out the full text for the interview:
When did you join HiCom and what was your job at the company?
I've started in November 1997 at HiCom and stayed there until the closing of eSofnet in December 2004.
At the time I joined, the company was just in the final stages of Corum 2. I've worked as a programmer on Corum 3 and Corum Oejeon, and also on some MMOs after that.
Then this was before you joined the company, but did you maybe hear anything about the Mega Drive games that HiCom had developed, Powerball and IF?
As far as I know, Powerball was almost completed, but cancelled due to the rapid transition of platforms. After the followup console, the Saturn, was released, no one saw any market value in Mega Drive games, anymore. I never heard about IF.
The Corum series was quite popular, but Corum Oejeon disappointed many fans for not having to do anything with the other games, regardless of what qualities it may have had. What was the reason to change a beloved series like that?
The development team itself was pretty confident about Corum's strengths and its positioning as a series of action RPGs. The only problem was that at the time those didn't sell as well as turn based SRPGs, mostly represented by The War of Genesis. As you probably know, HiCom was also the publisher for The War of Genesis: Rhapsody of Zephyr, which had the consequence that management put the two series in comparison all the more.
Corum 3 was very well received for its production values and gameplay, but nonetheless it stayed far behind the popularity of The War of Genesis, so at that point even inside the team there came the idea that maybe that was the kind of game the market wants, so it was decided to develop a turn based SRPG as a kind of side story.
But for a team like that that was well used to creating action RPGs it proved difficult to emulate the delicate scenario and dramatic strength of a game like The War of Genesis, and among the staff pessimistic views arised. Towards the end HiCom joined with eSofnet and started to shift towards online games, so Corum Oejeon didn't get 100% the attention it needed and was kinda just finished up to push it out.
When researching today, the relation between HiCom and eSofnet is hard to quite figure out. Did HiCom become eSofnet, or was that a different company that bought HiCom?
HiCom later became eSofNet as a result of their fusioning with FEW. As a result, the team first operated under the transitional name Softtop while the company became Wise HiCom, and a few months later eSofNet. So it should be correct to view eSofNet not as a company that existed independently before, but the result of the fusion of HiCom and FEW.
After the closing of eSofNet, most staff members went on to found different companies. As far as I know, the Corum team founded NetTimeSoft to make Corum Online. Their homepage isn't accessible lately, does the company still exist?
When eSofNet closed their doors, the games that were in development at the time were scattered to various companies, according to the rights and contracts. The Corum team moved to NetTimeSoft, the N-Age team to Seda Online, and the Dark Story Online team to Eya Interactive (today EyaSoft). Furthermore, after going through complicated procedures the former team leader of Dragon Raja got to complete the game with his new company Barunson, and the team for Ys Online, which was still in early development, went to CJ Internet, who were the main investor in the game. I don't know about the current conditions of NetTimeSoft. As far as I know, almost all the former Corum team members left around 2004-2005.
I remember the Corum team back then for their outstanding teamwork and know-how. Especially when HiCom first went bancrupt during the development of Corum 3, even with payment overdue for months, only one single team member quit, while the rest kept working until the end to complete the project.
Unfortunately, after the fusion of HiCom and FEW the former president of the latter became the head of the R&D department, and there were a lot of problems because his style differed from that of the HiCom people. About half of the staff left the company in the first half of 2000, and was scattered here and there, so a true sequel to the Corum series became impossible.
Since the former president of HiCom, Han Youngjo, stayed with EyaSoft as an advisor, after all those twists and turns many former HiCom staff members came back together at EyaSoft one by one, and are now working together on new projects.