In-Depth TERA Interview with Brian Knox

You voted. We delivered. An in-depth interview with the Executive Producer of En Masse Entertainment, Brian Knox, about your most anticipated game of E3: TERA

You voted on our Zam poll and overwhelmingly chose TERA as your most anticipated MMO for E3. So we tracked down Brian Knox, Executive Producer at En Masse Entertainment and asked him our toughest questions, many of which we got from your own forum comments. Here's our pre-E3, sneak peek into the much anticipated world of TERA.

MisterBones: TERA is described as the next generation MMO. Specifically, which last generation MMO conventions do you want to move away from? Do you think point-and-click combat is boring?

Brian Knox: TERA's developers started with the idea that players should be focused on the middle of the screen where the action happens, not on the UI surrounding it. TERA is an evolution in the MMO genre as it blends console style action with the traditional MMO elements we all love. Personally, I believe repetitive and non-dynamic gameplay becomes boring over time, which is why I am so excited that our combat is action based. Each battle feels unique--no two encounters play out the same way.

MisterBones: Let’s talk about the combat. How do you plan to appeal to hardcore action gamers as well as casual gamers who might have trouble with the pacing of an action game?

BK: The good thing about action combat is that it lets the player’s skill determine the complexity. We worked very hard to make the game intuitive for any gamer, and we believe players will really be able to stretch the system. For example, one person playing as a sorcerer might be more inclined to use area-of-effect skills and dodging, whereas another may choose to use direct damage skills and focus on healing. Each class has a lot of variables, and gamers are going to be able to play the game the way they want.

MisterBones: During our TERA demo at GDC, we were told that the player’s focus would be on the targeting reticule and not hitting icons like a game of “whack-a-mole.” How will players activate class skills and still keep their focus on what they’re attacking?

BK: TERA’s combat system doesn’t have 200 separate skills around the edge of the screen that a player has to remember to hit depending on each combat scenario. We’ve streamlined the skill system to allow the player’s own skill to take over. Think about it in terms of a console action game: you have a bunch of skills that are mapped to buttons, and after some play you just know what to hit and when to hit it. TERA feels a lot like that.

MisterBones: Since this is a beautiful and fast action game, how do you plan to maintain hit detection and avoid lag in the US, where the average ping can spike up to anywhere from 100 ms to 250 ms?

BK: A lot of testing and optimization! We have been running Focus Group Tests here in North America and have had very positive responses from our testers. Lag has not been an issue.

MisterBones: Some of the locations have towering, monolithic structures at their center. One of the videos shows an aerial shot of a giant wheel and another location with a humongous, beautiful tree. What can you tell us about these places?

BK: You’ll find these epic landmarks in every area of the game. Not only do they showcase the excellent work done by our artists and designers using the Unreal engine, but each is relevant and useful in-game. The Great Wheel is at the heart of Velika (the first big city the players visit) and was built to honor the goddess Velik. The beautiful tree in the center of the Island of Dawn is a mystery currently being researched by the Mysterium and the Explorer’s League.

Not only are these landmarks a part of the game lore, they’re also useful as navigational aids. If you ever get lost or disoriented, just look up!

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TERA
# Jun 02 2010 at 10:08 PM Rating: Decent
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.........

Edited, Jun 2nd 2010 11:09pm by Maarg
TERA
# Jun 02 2010 at 7:28 AM Rating: Decent
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From what I've read of the focus groups, this game still has a LONG way to go to meet the high expectations of western gamers. As I understand it, the original Korean version's leveling was done almost entirely through repeatable group quests. Also, sure the game doesn't have 200 skills, which is nice, but there's also 0 reactionary abilities (Shield Wall, Evasion, etc to use WoW examples). There's a very limited number of abilities that you use while constantly trying to run around the mobs and shoot at them.

Combat basically works by hitting 1, run around, hit 2 (because 1 is on cooldown), run around, hit 3, run around, hit 1 again. This is the definition of repetitive gameplay. And it takes a LONG time to kill each mob, even regular quest mobs. That is, if you can even solo them, as most quests require groups. And of course, lag in a 200-person focus group is going to be low. Try throwing 20,000 people into each starting zone and then tell me how bad the lag is. The hit-and-run gameplay only works if you don't get hit.

Of course, all these things are issues they "hope to address in a future build," but we all know where that ends up... (Star Trek, Age of Conan, etc). Sure they might be able to address it one day, but that day may not be launch day. Also, it is very difficult to gauge just how much influence the American/European developer has over the game design as compared to the Korean developer.
TERA
# Jun 02 2010 at 12:44 PM Rating: Decent
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It sounds like you have not actually played the game before.
From trying out my friend's Korean beta, I'd have to respectfully disagree.

"As I understand it, the original Korean version's leveling was done almost entirely through repeatable group quests."
Where are you getting this information?

"Also, sure the game doesn't have 200 skills, which is nice, but there's also 0 reactionary abilities".
Your statement is wrong. There absolutely are reactionary abilities in tera.

"Combat basically works by hitting 1, run around, hit 2 (because 1 is on cooldown), run around, hit 3, run around, hit 1 again."
The combat is what I expected out of the MMO from what they describe. It plays similarly to Fable or like Kingdom Hearts. You'll do magic attacks that do have cooldowns like you said, but you also have the dodging to think about while you're doing this. It DOES get a bit repetitive at times, but it's a refreshing change from MMOs in the market now (which are repetitive themselves).

"This is the definition of repetitive gameplay. And it takes a LONG time to kill each mob, even regular quest mobs. That is, if you can even solo them, as most quests require groups."
I've seen maybe 1 out of every 40-50 quests that require groups.

"And of course, lag in a 200-person focus group is going to be low. Try throwing 20,000 people into each starting zone and then tell me how bad the lag is."
What MMO have you been playing that has 20,000 people on one server?

"Of course, all these things are issues they "hope to address in a future build," but we all know where that ends up... (Star Trek, Age of Conan, etc). Sure they might be able to address it one day, but that day may not be launch day."
I do agree with you on this part. There are things in the game right I'm not in love with either and I hope they really do fix them.
TERA
# Jun 03 2010 at 8:04 AM Rating: Decent
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Here's a good writeup of some of the concerns I read from the focus group forum, which is where almost all of my information came:
www.incgamers.com/News/22391/tera-concerns-addressed-by-developers

The heavy focus on repeatable, and/or group quests was one of the main problems people had with the game. If you only saw 1 out of 40 quests that were repeatable, then you must have only seen the first 40 quests. After level 30, there were almost no quests in the game that weren't repeatable. To be fair, this could just be because the level 30+ content isn't done nearly to the extent as the 1-30 content at this point in the beta.

The lack of reactionary abilities was a problem in FG1. That was fixed a little in FG2 (from the ability lists I've seen), but the testers still felt it isn't nearly enough, and the ones that are there seem wonky (like having to push a button with a 10s cooldown to dodge 1 attack).

Of course, the 20,000 people in 1 server was an exaggeration. What I was trying to imply was that the CEO said that the FG reported no problems with lag, but that wasn't because they fixed all lag problems; that was because there were only 200 people spread across 20 different zones. Put a few thousand people in one zone then tell me how much the lag affects gameplay (which I'm sure will be significant).

Oh and as a side note, I've always taken offense with calling this game a "next generation MMO". You even helped my argument by saying "It plays similarly to Fable or like Kingdom Hearts" (which are games from 5+ years ago). There is, so far, nothing "next generation" about this title.
TERA
# Jun 18 2010 at 6:10 PM Rating: Decent
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I do realize that this is a bit late but I just felt like saying it anyway in case someone actually swings by to read the comments.

Maarg and premox21, the last Korean closed beta, which was held in late February, had 20,000 people invited for testing and there was only one server available. So I would be a bit careful about doubting TERA's server architecture or claiming that lag would be a problem since it obviously wasn't.

I actually have millions of things to say but unfortunately the American focus group tests are covered by non-disclosure agreements so I can't say anything. What I can say though, is that playing TERA has been an incredibly fun experience to me and spare a few parts I didn't like it truly is "next generation."
TERA
# Jun 03 2010 at 3:12 PM Rating: Excellent
32 posts
Aw, come on Maarg, nothing is next generation about TERA? Just take a look at those screens, dude. Beautiful.

Why would you "take offense" at something being called "the next generation" mmo anyway? You can see what they're going for right? Beautiful graphics and gameplay that differs from older "last gen" mmorpgs. What would "next generation" look like to you? I think the tagline's justified.
TERA
# Jun 03 2010 at 6:28 PM Rating: Decent
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So better graphics make it "next generation"? Changing genres from traditional RPG to Action/RPG is "next generation"? DX11 is "next generation" (since Age of Conan did DX10, which makes it the bar for the "current generation"). Is TERA going to be in DX11? And really, by the time FFXIV comes out, Action/RPG with good graphics will already be "current gen".

My problem with "next generation" is that it doesn't mean anything. It's PR talk. The instant you could possibly become "next generation" all that is changed is "current generation" becomes "last generation" and you become "current generation". These are "weasel words" meant to get your imagination to infer the meaning, while not actually telling you anything about the game.

When I hear that something is "next generation", I assume that it is "better than everything that comes before", however, no company would ever SAY that their game is "better than everything that comes before" because then they might be held to that. So they say "next generation" so that they don't have to be held down to any specific meaning.

Edited, Jun 3rd 2010 7:34pm by Maarg
TERA
# Jun 04 2010 at 1:20 PM Rating: Excellent
32 posts
"next generation" does mean better graphics. It does mean improvements in gameplay. I don't think it's as loosely defined as your making it out to be. Even the most weasly of PR people would have a hard time describing their game as "next generation" without bringing some of that to the table.

It denotes improvement and evolution. How do you measure that? Graphics and gameplay sophistication are two good ones to start with.
TERA
# Jun 05 2010 at 12:38 PM Rating: Decent
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I have to agree Bones. I have been playing Wow for over 4 years, played some AoC and Warhammer as well, and have many painful memories of EQ and UO. Wow is/was a next gen MMO in its content and playability sense for people, it has a very stylized art direction which lends itself to lesser hardware demands for the most part. My point is Wow's interface/gameplay and graphics created a specific polished environment to play in, which to me, made it the next gen MMO.

Why I feel TERA is going to be a next gen MMO is that they are attempting to bring a console feel to the powerful PC environment, something that previous MMO's have stayed away from (correct me if I am wrong though). People play consoles for the strong graphics visuals since the hardware can deliver. PC's (even basic rigs) can now deliver on that and also have a much more granular set of controls at their disposal.

I applaud TERA for it's ambition, it's obvious mega-talented art department, and hopefully successful team of developers for taking on the MMO environment in new ways and having to dodge all the arrows that will be flung whilst trying to deliver this product to a relentless community.
TERA
# Jun 07 2010 at 12:58 PM Rating: Decent
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Final Fantasy XI brought a console feel to the MMO years ago. It is the most successful console MMO ever created. You could play the whole game using nothing but a console controller (if you didn't like talking to players) on the PC or the XBOX or PS2.
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