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Lineage (computer game)

Lineage is a medieval fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) released in 1998 by the South Korean computer game developer NCsoft. It has become highly popular in Korea with subscriptions counting into the millions, but is also available in Chinese, Japanese, and English language versions.

Lineage features 2D isometric-overhead graphics similar to those of Ultima Online and Diablo II. The game was designed by Jake Song, who had previously designed The Kingdom of the Winds, another MMORPG. Players can choose one of four character classes: elf, knight, prince, or wizard. Gameplay features classic RPG elements reminiscent of Dungeons & Dragons, such as killing monsters and completing quests for loot and experience points, levels, character attributes (charisma, strength, wisdom, etc.), and alignments (neutral, chaotic or lawful). Player versus player combat is extensive in Lineage. Players can combat other player characters by joining a "bloodpledge" (an association of players almost like a clan in other games) and then attacking a castle or fighting a pledge war.

As of 2003, developers consider Lineage to be the most commercially successful MMORPG ever. NCsoft has reported that Lineage has more than four million subscribers, most of them in Korea. To compare, EverQuest (1999) has not even reached 500,000 subscriptions. Analysts have come up with many ways to explain the difference in magnitude of these numbers. Many suggest that Korea has a thriving multiplayer computer game culture (a ban on some Japanese imports up until 1998 has been cited for delayed growth in its video game console market). Others point to the difference in subscription models: Most Korean gamers play at PC bangs that pay for their own subscriptions.

Despite the popularity of their games in Asia, NCsoft has yet to produce similar successes anywhere else in the world. They developed Lineage II and released it in Korea in 2003. They hope that dramatically improved 3D graphics (thanks to the Unreal engine) and better marketing in the United States will help business performance when it's released there in 2004.

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